Safety Stinks: An Honest Look at Safety Strategies
Room at the Top
In my last article I wrote about the need for ownership at each level of an organization, focusing primarily on entry level and front-line positions. Today I’m covering the path to promotion and advancement and the palpable need for leadership in our industries. Yes, this is a safety editorial, but hear me out. Successful companies usually aren’t there because of poor safety records. Excellence in operations and quality go hand in hand with worker safety and health.
Opportunity for growth and advancement are a hot topic in our world. Some have given up on ‘the American dream’ entirely. These people may also lead others (especially the young and inexperienced) to believe that unless you have a certain background, opportunity will be hard to come by. This is a total fallacy. At the management and executive level we need (good) people more than ever.
I’ve spent considerable time pondering the current workforce shortage we’re experiencing. For the first time in our nation’s history unemployment is high not due to lack of jobs, but due to lack of interest. People don’t want to work, or don’t want to go back to jobs that don’t provide them with a sense of purpose. I get it. Spending our most valuable resource, time, on something that we don’t value can be exhausting, especially when your time isn’t being valued by the people in charge.
Still, the level of effort and care we give the people around us can’t be dictated solely by the people skills of our superiors or the culture of our companies. The majority of successful people I’ve met are in their position because they provide a very rare commodity - a desire to serve, regardless of circumstances.
I’m not saying that you should stay in a company that treats you poorly, forever. Most of us have had jobs where the idea of going to work brought a heavy sigh of frustration. This isn’t a new concept, but expecting to go to work every day (especially at a new job) and feel you’re fulfilling all of your life’s passion, is very rare. Getting advanced quickly just because you want to be, even more so.
If you’re looking to live a life that counts, that makes a difference, that has an impact - look no further than where you’re working or your next job. Sometimes our goals are out of order and people think “if I get to a great level of pay or influence, then I’ll really start caring about my job or the people that work here”. This is completely backwards. Start by serving and caring about the people you work with now- this is what opportunity looks like.
A lot of younger people have asked me over the years, “how did you start and grow a business?” I respond the same way every time, “by solving people’s problems.” While this is an oversimplification, it’s the path I’ve always followed. I have been willing to invest time in solving safety, compliance, and engineering problems and enlist the help of others when I need advice or help. I often run into situations that are out of my depth (more often than I care to admit) but you have to be diligent to solve them and ask the right questions to find the solutions - not always because it provides immediate advancement but because this is the only way to advance.
For those of us who have advanced, and are leaders in our organizations, I want to say that now, more than ever, it’s vital that we find new and fresh ways to encourage our teams. Those that are still working are a valuable resource and have shown leadership in confronting cultural norms and investing their time in our businesses. Hopefully this is a norm that we can provide through both lean times and rich ones.